We're sure to ruffle some feathers with this one, but we didn't get into night vision just to extend our shooting hours. We were already shooting well into the night with white light, which remains the most practical (and most likely to be defensively used) solution for shooting at night. We got into night vision because we wanted to add more capability. A new tool for our tool belt. And punching paper in a new way wasn't it.
Located in a state with a heavy coyote presence, it was a no-brainer to make hunting them part of the weekend night shoots. Besides being a great time, we think it's some of the most valuable overall training out there that's readily accessible to nearly all shooters. Those of you who hunt likely already understand. For the rest of you, let's break down exactly what you're getting that you won't find on your average flat range.
Ever heard the phrase "sly like a fox"? Predator's don't make it easy to see them, and target detection is the first real challenge. They are masters of camouflage and staying hidden in their environment, so the first challenge is spotting them. We aren't setting up our own targets here, these can pop up anywhere, at any time.
PID (Positive Identification)
Before we even get to pulling a trigger, we need to make sure we know what we're pulling it at. On the flat range we have cardboard targets, and we distinguish shoot & no shoot typically just by the white or brown side. It's fast, and it's easy.
Hunting under night vision is going to be a bit more difficult, especially when multiple animals may respond to the same kind of call. Is it a coyote? Or is it a fox, bobcat, house cat, donkey, dog, or racoon? All things we've had pop out or peek around a bush at us when we're hunting. You have to make the right call, and you may only have a second (literally) to do it. You have to think & process quickly, and act even faster. And trust us, your brain is a lot more excited in that moment than it gets for a new paper target.
So you've got a "shoot" target. Hope you've been drilling your ready-ups, because you're going to have to be quick. Coyote, Fox, and Bobcat aren't known for just lounging around in the open. They like to use cover, stay concealed, and only expose themselves when necessary. It's likely going to be moving, and you're only going to have a second or two to engage, so get that gun up fast.
If you're shooting a fox, you've basically got a sideways A-Zone target. That target is either moving, or only very briefly stopped, and can be anywhere from point blank to 150 yards. And you only get one shot. We've missed foxes simply because we mis-estimated range (another challenge hunting under night vision), and our hold was off. If it's a coyote, now you're dealing with a sideways C-Zone target. A little better, but remember, you only have a second or two to identify and shoot. There's nothing more humbling than missing a shot, but there's also no better way to start improving.
Also, ever tried to lead a running target with a laser? That's training you won't be getting anywhere else.
Yes, we know this sounds basic. But when was the last time you had to traverse austere terrain on the flat range? Probably never, hence the name. Honestly, shooting under night vision is one of the easiest things to do. Movement becomes a whole different challenge. With limited field of view, less depth perception (especially with single tube units), and anything up close likely not in focus.
Sure, you've been walking for decades, but only using your Mark 1 MOD 0 eyeballs and visible light. When you're out hunting, you're likely to encounter more rugged and varied terrain. Whether it's climbing hills, crossing a stream, moving through the woods or thick brush, walking over very rocky surfaces, trudging through sand, or a combination of those, you're likely to be challenged physically.
Navigation is an important skill to have whether under night vision or not, but it gets more difficult at night. You need to pay attention to any light output from a GPS or device, properly use terrain features to stay hidden while moving to your destination (walking in a straight line is a great way to be seen), and learn to properly judge distance under night vision, as well as match terrain features to what you see on a map. Not a skill that can be picked up right away.
So you're learning how to navigate and move under night vision. Great! Now learn to do it undetected. There's a lot of different facets to this, and each is pretty important.
It matters. So ditch the Multicam Black, because it isn't going to work. Hopefully you already own gear that's well fit for your environment, but if not, now is the time to get it. Predators still have great vision at night (though not actual Predator vision thankfully), so your night vision isn't as big as an advantage as it is against unaided human eyes.
So pick camouflage that makes sense for your environment, and then learn how to use your environment to further camouflage yourself. If the moon is out, sit in the shadows. Don't skyline yourself while at a stand, or moving towards one. Try to keep foliage or something obscuring between you and the target area. Time to learn some basic fieldcraft.
Just like you significantly reduce your chances of having a successful hunt if you make a bunch of noise on the way in to your stand, you don't want to be making a lot of noise while trying to move undetected at night as well. Animals have great hearing, but it really isn't hard for anyone to hear someone who keeps walking into brush, across leaves, or breaking branches and twigs on their way into a stand. Learn to move quietly.
Not so much a skillset as it is a discipline, pay attention to your scent. This is the number one thing that will give you away at a stand, as coyote tend to circle around a call before coming in, to try and catch a scent. Use unscented soaps, buy scent killing spray, and watch where you are in the wind. Humans don't have a great sense of smell, but this is still valuable field skills. Anyone can recognize the smell of cigarette smoke or cologne, or body odor.
Wear your gear while you go out. We are nearly always at least running a pistol belt when hunting so we have a sidearm and medical with us, but no reason you can't go out in full gear. Sure, your gear works for you on the flat range for an hour or two, but how does it feel after hiking and moving all night through brush or over heavy terrain? How is your earpro working for you after you've had it on for two straight hours? You may need to make some adjustments. Valuable info if you ever have to wear that plate carrier for real.
So, you've stocked up on Mk262 like the cool guys, but have you ever actually shot anything with it? It's always a good idea to know how your ammo will perform out of your weapon at different distances, and a coyote is a great way to test that. We've ditched defense rounds that were previously recommended because we never saw consistent expansion in animals we shot, and we've found that MK318 MOD 1 has consistently given us the best performance. Test your chosen ammo real-world.
Summary: Hunting vs the Range
So are we saying to stop going to the flat range? No, absolutely not. In fact, hunting has given us more reason to train harder on the flat range, because we have a very practical application, not just a theoretical future scenario. And we have a flat range set up on public land about 10 minutes from one of our hunting spots, that we hit every time we go out.
What we are saying, is that it's time to stop pretending that you're getting all the training you need for that future scenario in a 50 yard shooting bay. There's a lot of valuable skillsets you may need, and hunting gives you a great excuse to learn them. At the end of the day, we'll take the guy well rounded in the field vs the guy who has a .2 second faster 1r1.
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